ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998.


Poems by John Amen.


bad novels

for sb

I love mawkishness reminds me of cotton candy
what june & steady rain bring to a confession

it’s not like this everywhere
some impresarios are resting in cool places
if you saw them you’d think their armies were sleeping

other self-proclaimed go-getters are praying
over any number of dilemmas
or putting deposits on accoutrements

fact is we need a protagonist
to expose the villain & manipulate the media
establish a credible lack of affinity
with matters deemed politically incorrect

say if you think there are holes
in this breath I’m expounding
it’s all the same to wait for nothing in particular

to arc & arrival
the machinery behind the curtain
how the dead in the margin keep waving their pinwheels.



self-portrait 5:15

I suppose it’s cowardice
I tend to
what’s already dawned & darkened

any cathedral upon which
light hasn’t settled
how each breath it burns

yes I need a god not any god
even my especially my
blessings are unbearable

for I clutch oh son of antimatter
what I loathe the cue card in my broken fist
this of course will take time

so eager to be the chosen one
I’m learning there is no other


self-portrait in the airplane

for heather

you & the rest of the survivors
were going back to college
taking a sabbatical from yr daily content
the lost & hungry boys
who kept throwing their knives at the infinite

then you’re back
determined to sell yr swagger
even if you have to remain anonymous
or hide token gifts in public places

you’ve got the proper clothes
you’re inured to the standard expressions of disbelief
you can handle the reporters
in fact you enjoy a mild to moderate shock

in short you’ve done yr homework you’re ready
for all the detours that shimmer before you

soon you’ll be laughing again
you & those crazy ladies on vacation
in some place that has a life of its own

no one will ever accuse you of hesitating
no one needs to fire the starting gun

you’re already gone

John Amen is the author of three collections of poetry: Christening the Dancer (Uccelli Press, 2003), More of Me Disappears (Cross-Cultural Communications, 2005), and At the Threshold of Alchemy (Presa, 2009). His collaborative work with Daniel Y. Harris, The New Arcana, will be released by New York Quarterly Press in September 2012. His work has appeared in numerous journals nationally and internationally and been translated into Spanish, French, Hungarian, and Hebrew. In addition, he has released two folk/folk rock CDs: All I’ll Never Need (Cool Midget 2004) and Ridiculous Empire (2008). He is also an artist, working primarily with acrylics on canvas. Further information is available on his website: Amen travels widely giving readings, doing musical performances, and conducting workshops. He founded and continues to edit The Pedestal Magazine (

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